Home Current News Volcanic eruption in New Zealand leaves 5 dead, more ‘unaccounted for’

Volcanic eruption in New Zealand leaves 5 dead, more ‘unaccounted for’

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Volcanic eruption in New Zealand leaves 5 dead, more Emergency crews scrambled to a popular tourist island off the coast of New Zealand on Monday afternoon, local time, as a volcano erupted and left at least five people dead and even more injured or missing.The eruption occurred on White Island, also known as Whakaari, which sits about 30 miles (48 km) offshore from mainland New Zealand.Fewer than 50 people were believed to be on or near the island when the volcano rumbled to life, according to Radio New Zealand.Twenty-three people have been rescued from the island, and five of those have died, according to local authorities. The remaining 18 survivors have all endured some degree of injury, with some suffering severe burns. Smoke bellows from Whakaari, also known as White Island, volcano as it erupts in New Zealand, Dec. 9, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. GNS Science via REUTERS At a press conference on Monday evening, New Zealand Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims estimated that at least 10 people were still missing on the island.”There remain a number of people on the island who are unaccounted for,” the police said in a statement. “Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are believed to be involved.”More than 30 of those touring the island at the time of the explosion are believed to be guests of the Royal Caribbean International ship “Ovation of the Seas.””We are devastated by today’s events and our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragedy,” the cruise line told CNN. “We are working together with local authorities, and we are providing all the help and care we can to our guests and their families, including offering medical resources and counseling. We are also sending staff members from both our ship and our Sydney and Auckland offices to assist family members however possible. Ovation of the Seas will remain in port as long as needed to assist with the situation.”> Last photos: here are the White Island Tour operators rescuing people, timestamp 14:24 (~12-14 minutes after eruption). Endless gratitude to that crew for stepping up as first responders. > > I took these and reporters welcome to use with attribution. pic.twitter.com/ITmY1jCezr> > — Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019By Monday evening, search and rescue efforts were stalled with authorities deeming the island too dangerous.”The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island,” Tims said. “It’s important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we’re taking advice from experts going forward.””At this stage, it does appear to be a very significant issue,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said shortly after the incident.Satellite images captured the huge plume of smoke and ash that spewed into the sky during the eruption.> White Island eruption was also visible on satellite images. ^AJ pic.twitter.com/Cx4LYHr9Ie> > — MetService (@MetService) December 9, 2019The New Zealand Civil Defense encouraged people living in or near the affected ash fall areas to consider staying indoors, closing windows and doors to limit the entry of volcanic ash and wearing a handkerchief or dust mask over the nose and mouth.”Wear eyeglasses, NOT contact lenses as fine ash will get under the lens,” they said in a post on Facebook.GeoNet, the government earthquake agency, said in a statement that the eruption was “short lived” and generated an ash plume 12,000 feet into the sky.The agency issued a Volcanic Alert Level of three for the eruption, indicating a minor volcanic eruption with a majority of the eruption hazards located near the vent. The Volcanic Alert Level is a scale ranging from zero to five with five representing a major eruption. An aerial view shows smoke billowing above the crater of Whakaari, also known as White Island, volcano as it erupts in New Zealand, Dec. 9, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. GNS Science via REUTERS “Ash fall appears to be confined to the island and we do not expect more than a minor amount of ash to reach East Cape in the coming hours,” GeoNet said. “We are aware that people were on the island immediately before the eruption and we express our concern for their safety.”GeoNet suspended their webcams on the volcano and removed the images of the moments leading up to and during the eruption from their website while search and rescue efforts are underway.”Our sympathies are with those families affected by the Whakaari/White Island eruption,” a statement on their website said.White Island is known to be New Zealand’s most active cone volcano, according to the agency.Prior to the eruption, scientists had noticed a recent uptick in volcanic activity on the island, according to The Associated Press (AP).On Nov. 18, GeoNet raised the Volcanic Alert Level on White Island from one to two following an uptick in sulfur dioxide gas, according to the AP. The agency also reported an increase in the strength of volcanic tremors in the weeks prior.